Without firm dinner plans on our third night in Rome, we looked at a list of interesting restaurants we had compiled that were nearby in the Monti neighbourhood, our home away from home for four nights. With the help of our hotel staff, we booked 8:30pm reservations, unaware of the deliciousness that was ahead. Who knew that the most delicious pasta in the world would be mere steps around the corner from our hotel in Rome?
La Carbonara was definitely a locals place. A few visitors like us had found our way here, but there were a lot of regulars jammed in around us ordering without menus. Everyone was ordering the pasta and as plate after plate went past to other tables there was no doubt I would be indulging in a pasta course on this night. With a “when in Rome” mentality, we ordered a bottle of local Lazio wine (Santa Felicita, Cesanese del Piglio 2011). It was a robust and rustic red… a little rough around the edges until it opened up a bit. It ended up fitting perfectly with both the food and the ambiance of the restaurant.
It was very difficult to make my choice of what to eat. The menu was only in Italian (good sign!), so my rudimentary understanding of the language had me excited to see what I’d actually receive when it showed up. Having already decided on a pasta course and talking myself out of two pasta courses somewhat reluctantly, my wife and I shared a first course of prosciutto and mozzarella di bufala. A delicious start to our meal:
Our second courses were where we had to diverge in our ordering. With my wife needing to eat gluten free, she was a complete champ in watching me chow down on what was the best thing I’ve eaten in my travels in 2014. It looked like everyone in the place had ordered this same thing (a very good sign!) – cacio e pepe. It was an almost unbelievably simple dish: pasta with pecorino cheese and pepper. The freshly made pasta was perfectly cooked. If ever I’ve been in a complete state of bliss while eating, this was it. Maybe not since eating a Philly cheesesteak in front of my wife have I seen her so sad not to be able to share a dish with me:
I still sigh a little sigh when I think back on that pasta. A plate like that and a glass of wine… life was pretty good that night! Luckily for my wife, the restaurant was able to whip up a tasty gluten-free dish for her. This wonderfully rustic chicken, tomato and rocket salad was delicious.
My main course was oxtail, a specialty of the chef, and was heavenly. Luckily, it was naturally gluten free so I was able to share this one with my wife. I was well into a beautiful food coma by the time I finished off this enormous plate of food:
I gave some fairly serious thought to ordering more pasta for desert, but my wife thought a walk to the local gelato shop would be a better idea. Before leaving, we indulged in a long standing tradition at the restaurant. The walls are adorned with the signatures of those who have dined here over the years. I added our names in a blank spot just above the radiator:
The simplicity of the food and its perfect preparation is something that I’ll always remember from this trip to Italy. There were a lot of other outstanding meals on this trip, but nothing came close to the cacio e pepe at La Carbonara – it made for the perfect Roman night.